We got up early, waiting for the winds to die down a bit. Passage Weather predicts that at 11:30 the winds will swing from the NW dropping to 6 kts and the waves will be 2-3 feet. D-day to depart our mooring field and leave with the group of sailboats that are planning on sailing the entire 20 hours to Cape May. This is the segment of the trip that has bothered me from day one. We’ve never sailed the Atlantic Ocean but knowing there are other sailboats kind of adds a sense of security for our first time!
We dropped our mooring ball at about 11:00 and followed about 10 sailboats out of the Atlantic Highlands anchorage/mooring field. All of us followed the Sandy Hook Peninsula which was about 5 miles until we reached the channel out into the Atlantic. The beach at the cut reminded us of the point at Buxton, NC. We sailed so close to the point that we could see the birds working and the fishermen catching fish!Quickly the sailboats separated into smaller groups according to the size and speed of the boats. Everyone is sailing or motor-sailing, needing to average 6 or more knots so they could get to the tip of Cape May by daylight. We stayed along the 3 nautical mile line on our chartplotter so we were able to see the coastline during the day. The winds varied for the most part during the day from 10 to 8 to 6 to 4 to 6 kts again. Consequently the waves varied at different times but on the average they were just shy of 3 footers…not bad at all…..the night winds were to be light so the waves would diminish a bit also. We had about a ¾ moon which gave off a nice moon path gleam and the skies were so clear when I looked east, there was Orion as big as could be walking across the night skies.
When we past Seaside Park at around 6 pm, the boardwalk that caught fire a few days ago was still smoldering….we could see the smoke rising and then smell it too. The water taxi tender at Atlantic Highlands said that the officials at the park thought the fire was set by lightening. We later were told that wasn’t true. The new twist on the story is that a disgruntled firefighter who also owns a shop along the boardwalk set his shop on fire because he felt he didn’t get enough money from FEMA after Hurricane Sandy. So not only did he destroy his shop but the flames caught the boardwalk on fire also. By the way, the boardwalk was new!As the night progressed, it got damp and cold on the water. We knew that this was going to be a long night. We decided to drop our enclosure to protect us from the cold winds but we still both felt chilled during the hours between midnight and daylight. I felt sorry for those boats that had no enclosures, and there were many. Eventually the moon set and it was pitch black out. The only lights were the lights on shore. When we got off the coast of Atlantic City there was so much light pollution that it must be very difficult to enter that bay at night. The green and red navigation buoys blended right in with the rest of the lights of the casinos and hotels. We thought about entering and resting but changed our minds and decided to continue with the rest of the boats.
We sailed behind, beside, and eventually in front of the sailing vessel Southern Belle the entire 20 hours. Once we got off of Atlantic City, they kept slowing down, speeding up, slowing down, speeding up….we didn’t know if they were having boat problems or what was happening! Finally when we got near Wildwood, NJ, Chuck was snoozing and I was at the wheel, so I took charge and passed sv Southern Belle. Other than that, it was a relatively uneventful trip. We didn’t see any freighters but one did call on the VHF to say that they were on a head-on collision course with 2 of the sailboats. I’m glad it wasn’t us!!! Those two boats responded back that they were altering their course.Most of us did get to the tip of Cape May around 5am and unfortunately it was still dark. When we rounded the tip we found the flashing red light marker that we needed to navigate to the channel entrance. All of a sudden it disappeared. The other boats were having a difficult time reading the markers also. There was just too much background confusion! Soon the sun started to rise which was good for all of us entering the Cape May Historical Harbor. We turned to port once through the channel and anchored with everyone else in front of the Coast Guard Station. I tried calling Utsch Marina at 6am to reserve a slip and they didn’t open until 8am. So we took a much needed nap and slept for 3 hours on the hook!